Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Friday that the US had respected Russia’s clearly defined red lines during last week’s April 13 attacks on Syria. He said Russia made clear where the geographic red lines were and the US didn’t cross them.
This is in keeping with the Pentagon’s own portrayal of the attacks, which made clear they explicitly didn’t target Russian or Iranian sites. Russia warned in the lead-up that they would retaliate if the US endangered Russian troops on the ground with their attacks. No such incidents happened, and Russia’s forces did not intercept any US missiles.
Lavrov seemed pleased the US didn’t try to escalate further, noting escalating tensions hadn’t spilled over into a military confrontation. Defense Secretary James Mattis is likely a big reason why, as he was said to have resisted any attacks that would’ve had a higher risk of provoking Russia.
This was underscored by two official US statements on the April 13 attack. President Trump touted the attack, and faulted Russia for having a friend like Assad, while Mattis made very clear the attacks were a one-off and exclusively targeted Syrian infrastructure.
Russia was deeply critical of the US-led attacks. This was because they came before any investigation took place in Douma on an alleged chemical attack, as the US is using this claimed attack as a pretext. Lavrov’s comments indicate the US managed to tread a narrow line between unwise aggression against Syria and open warfare with Russia.
Notably, Lavrov did not mention Britain or France in the comments, despite them also participating in the US strikes. This is likely because both British and French officials portrayed the attacks as intending to send a message to Russia, or in some way targeting Russian interests.
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